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ikon

Old dude stuff

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ikon

From time to time members post about their experiences with computers over the years. A few of us are old enough to have been involved with the field from some of its early days in the 50s and 60s.

 

With that in mind.....

 

I believe the first printer I printed on was a Diablo Data Systems connected to a DEC PDP11/70. So there, I am too old!

 

One of my first (can't find a picture of my very first) printer was the IBM 1403. This was what was known as a Line Printer.

 

Basically, there was a chain that spun horizontally around in front of a column of fan-fold paper that advanced rapidly upward. Attached to the chain were a number of copies of the character set used by the printer, mostly uppercase letters, plus numbers and a few special characters. IIRC, there were up to 5 copies of this character set on the chain. A cloth typewriter style ribbon, only much longer, sat immediately in front of the chain.

 

As the paper advanced past the chain, hammers located behind the paper (I think there were 132) would strike out and smack the paper against the ribbon and one of the characters on the chain. The chain never stopped; the characters were struck onto the paper as it whizzed by. Many characters would be struck simultaneously or in very quick succession.

 

These printers were quite noisy. After loading the paper and lowering the lid the printer would start up and it was a bit intimidating to listen to the print chain spin up - it made quite the whining/whirring sound, soft of like a jet engine winding up. The entire outer body of the printer lifted up to expose the inner workings so paper and ribbons could be loaded,. When the paper ran out, the 'lid' would lift up automatically, as if the printer was saying, "Feed me" :)

 

The most notable thing about these printers was their speed. They were fast - 600 lines per minute or more. It was almost impossible to keep up with the paper as it exited the printer. Normally, it would exit out the top of the printer, across the rear of the top, and then down the back into an empty cardboard box (usually, the box was one that had contained unprinted paper earlier in the day).

 

Unfortunately , when I was in university, we had a printer that had a broken exit chute. This was a clear plastic chute that helped guide paper out the top. The front, bottom left corner of the chute was broken off. Very regularly, the paper would get caught up on the exposed edge and cause paper jams. This would cause the lid of the printer to automatically lift up, signalling the need for service. It quickly became a royal PITA to keep refeeding the paper into the mechanism.

 

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scruffters

This is a really interesting post.

 

I would have used the 'like' button, but there isn't one - so expressing my gratitude in an appropriately old school way.

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ikon

Yeah, I have no idea about 'like' buttons. From time to time members have mentioned something called Rating Points, or Prestige Points, or something like that, but I have no idea how they work.

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jmwills

I'll have to check with Brian Williams to see what we worked on back in the day.

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schoondoggy

This is a really interesting post.

 

I would have used the 'like' button, but there isn't one - so expressing my gratitude in an appropriately old school way.

It is the green arrow pointing up on the right side of the screen.

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ikon

I'll have to check with Brian Williams to see what we worked on back in the day.

 

I hear he has some free time on his hands at the moment. ;)

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scruffters

It is the green arrow pointing up on the right side of the screen.

 

thanks schoondoggie!

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HellDiverUK

In my first job, the company still serviced those old Wang OIS systems.  I believe the US Navy had similar Wang systems on their aircraft carriers back in the day.  They were a big old 8-bit machines about the height and depth of a tumble drier, and about half the width.  Each terminal connected straight to it's own pair of coax connections, which for some reason had a significant DC voltage, somewhere near 50V. Good enough to give you a nice dig in the arm if you accidentally touched the live inner core.  The storage on the main unit was an old full-height 30MB Miniscribe RLL drive.  We used to spray those things with freezer spray when the motor controller part of the PCB went wrong, though that sometimes meant you ended up with the world's first 15krpm drive as the controller went totally wrong and just kept the drive spinning up until it nearly levitated off the bench.

 

The Wang systems also used line printers.  I remember Ford Motor Co had a Wang VS, which was a bit like a VAX.  When Ford shut their local factory, they needed a hard copy of all their data off their decrepit VS, so two guys sat for 3 months printing out data off our office VS using an old line printer.  Literally truck loads of paper was shipped off to Ford US.

Edited by HellDiverUK

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ikon

LOL, what a coincidence. I also worked on a Wang 8-bit 'minicomputer'. We called the cabling 'TwinAx'. The system was used by secretaries in the company. There were no personal computers in those days so the secretaries typed up all the letters, memos, and reports.

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Poppapete

Hence we get the parallel printer port being called an LP for Line Printer but I suspect most posters here can't remember LP ports. I do have a box of that green and white paper with the sprocket holes. The Grandkids used to use it as scribble paper but now they have iPads.

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